Center for Globalization and Policy
School of Public Policy and Social Research,
Working Paper No 3,
THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMY:
TIME-SPACE COMPRESSION, GEOPOLITICS,
AND GLOBAL UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT
Professor and Chair of Geography
University of California, Los Angeles
Lecture presented at the Center for Globalization and Policy Research, UCLA
Wednesday, April 18, 2001
Two ideas have dominated discussion in recent studies of the social and political impacts of
globalization by those who think that globalization had had real effects and is not simply a synonym for
the neo-liberal policies instituted by many national governments beginning in the 1980s.
The first is
the idea that everywhere in the world is becoming alike economically and culturally.
This is a scaling
up from the national to a global scale of the old idea of “modernization.”
From this perspective,
common global norms about conduct, consumption standards, and cultural practices are spreading
everywhere. This global modernization is often seen as dependent on the working of a second idea.
This is that current globalization is about the shrinking of the world because of revolutionary changes
in communication and transportation technologies.
In the long-term this process of “time-space
compression” will produce greater similarities across places but immediately this need not be the case.
Rather, differences between places may in fact intensify as involvement in a world of flows makes the
characteristics of this or that place more competitive globally.
In the end, however, different places
will establish niches for themselves within the global economy, even if there is dislocation in the short-
In this paper I want to challenge the adequacy of these ideas for understanding the course of the
contemporary world economy, the new uneven development that it is producing, and the political
reactions to this.
In their place I argue for the importance of the geopolitical role of the United States
and the vision of world economic order, or
, that post-World War II US
governments have actively sponsored, both unilaterally and multilaterally, in the emergence of the new
global economy and its geographical structure.
In this perspective, technological changes and the
values associated with them have been enabling and encouraging, rather than determining in and of
themselves, and common outcomes with respect to global norms, etc., are far from likely in a world
still exhibiting large geographical differences in levels of economic development.
In other words, the
new global economy did not simply spring out of technological changes powered by business
imperatives and justified by a logic of neo-liberal economics that have subsequently produced an
increasingly homogenized world.